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A Way Forward for Effective BI Requirements Specification June 30, 2006

Posted by Cyril Brookes in BI Requirements Definition, General, Issues in building BI reporting systems.

There is a way out of the mess we’re in because of poor BI Requirements definition.  The “waterfall”, or top-down, approach isn’t compatible with the instant gratification desire promoted by BI software vendors and exponents of the prototyping incremental development methodologies. 

I accept that we are not going back to the top-down development models for BI systems; executives want faster turnaround time.However, speeding up implementation by short-cutting requirements analysis is only satisfactory if the initial results can be fine-tuned in subsequent iterations to produce a good result.  So the starting point, the first iteration, must be well planned.   Often the initial BI design specifications are incomplete, and do not offer any creative or innovative content or presentation.  It’s like going to McDonalds or Burger King when the objective was “fine dining”.  But, being realistic, nothing is going to change the love affair consultants and IT analysts have with prototyping.  And it isn’t necessary.  All we have to do is to inculcate a habit of finding sensible, and creative, requirements at the outset. Here is my prescription. 

Top-down, or waterfall, methods are seen as being inappropriate  – that leaves two basic options. 

  1. Build what  already exists in a more glamorous package, with some catchy phrases like “drill-down” added
  2. Employ the bottom-up planning approach, with some minimal top-down content [applied in a structured manner to minimize wasted time]

If we can make good use of the second option we should be well on the way to a consistently better BI context. 



1. S. George Schiro - July 25, 2007

There is another approach that can complement taking a bottom up approach. It involves much better requirements gathering for the first iteration. In addition to identifying workflow and transactional requirements that tend to be easier to identify, the focus of BI requirements is on identifying what matters to the firm and then identifying the data elements and analytics needed to deploy the information. The usual approach is to conduct multiple iterations so that an understanding of what matters can evolve as managers and staff begin to experience the availability of BI. There are ways, developed in the context of performance measurement, to greatly enhance the recognition and elicitation of these requirements that can go a long way toward minimizing the number of iterations needed relegating them to more of the fine-tuning mentioned.

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